Mumbai: Last week, Parth Pawar, Sharad Pawar’s grand-nephew, visited him at his Mumbai residence after the Nationalist Congress Party chief rebuked him publicly for demanding a central agency probe into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
A crew of television cameras and journalists was already waiting at the gate. As 30-year-old Parth emerged two hours later, after meeting his aunt and Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, the journalists shot numerous questions at him and transmitted their updates.
It was just another day for Silver Oak, the senior Pawar’s quaint bungalow at the upmarket Bhulabhai Desai Road in south Mumbai, which has become one of the most significant and newsworthy political addresses in Maharashtra’s capital since Pawar’s rise as a leader who holds the reins of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, the three-party coalition of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress led by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
“Silver Oak has been under the spotlight ever since the MVA government came to power. There has been a lot more activity here, including visits by political leaders from different parties. It has become a regular spot for the news media,” said an NCP leader who did not wish to be named.
No. 2, Silver Oak
The Silver Oak Estate, spread over 22,000 square feet, was exclusively for the Parsi community until the 1990s, when it was ‘secularised’. Pawar moved to Bungalow No. 2 in 2013 from his previous Mumbai residence at Ramalaya Building on Pedder Road, where the late Congress leader Murli Deora also lived.
Therefore, Silver Oak’s status as a political address is not as old as others in Mumbai, such as Matoshree (Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, and now Uddhav Thackeray’s home), Varsha (the chief minister’s official residence), and Sahyadri (the state government’s official guest house).
The two-storey bungalow is also quite unassuming, unlike Matoshree, Varsha or Sahyadri. All three others have pickets for stringent security, barring entry to any unexpected visitors, but the security at 2, Silver Oak is comparatively threadbare.
“At Silver Oak, one can go in directly. There aren’t several levels of security like at Matoshree. The security guards tell you if Sharad Pawar is in, or how long is he likely to take. You can wait there, go in without much of a hassle. It is almost like a political party office,” said political commentator Pratap Asbe.
An NCP legislator added that the ground floor of the Pawar residence has a small office, where the former Union minister and Maharashtra CM’s personal assistant and a couple of others sit.
“The security guards just send in a note saying so-and-so is here, and what work he or she is here for. Pawar makes it a point to meet every person who comes to his house, whether with an appointment or not,” the legislator said.
“I was, in fact, telling the security guards to be a bit more vigilant now, in today’s age of politically motivated hate crimes. So many of our karyakartas go in without much scrutiny. How do we ensure whether they really are our karyakartas?” the legislator asked.
MVA’s ‘remote control’ at Silver Oak
Pawar’s bungalow was especially under the spotlight in November last year, after the Maharashtra elections threw up a hung assembly. Journalists got many solid leads from sources at 2, Silver Oak, while the political drama played out — the Shiv Sena snapped ties with the BJP, the NCP & Congress scrambled to form a coalition with the Sena, former CM Devendra Fadnavis was sworn-in with breakaway NCP leader Ajit Pawar, Sharad Pawar’s nephew and Parth’s father. Then, the coalition was finalised, Fadnavis resigned, Ajit Pawar returned to the NCP fold, and finally the MVA government was sworn in on 28 November.
In this period, Thackeray too had stepped out of Matoshree for a meeting with Sharad Pawar at Silver Oak. This was rare, since Uddhav, like his father Bal Thackeray, has been known to call for almost all meetings or press conferences at Matoshree, while Pawar has always preferred to hold them outside his house — either at the NCP office or at the YB Chavan Centre at Nariman Point.
“Even now, press conferences are called at Silver Oak only on rare occasions, in urgent matters,” said a functionary from the team handling Sharad Pawar’s media.
A journalist who has been covering the NCP for several years said meetings at Silver Oak happen only when party leaders come to meet Pawar. “The frequency of that has increased ever since the NCP came to power,” the journalist, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
For instance, just last week, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, NCP MP Supriya Sule and party’s state chief Jayant Patil held a meeting with the senior Pawar at Silver Oak after the rebuke to Parth.
But because Pawar holds the shaky alliance together, it has also been said that the remote control to the MVA government lies at Silver Oak, just like the Shiv Sena-led government from 1995-99 was said to have its remote control at Matoshree.
Another important address
Matoshree, Varsha and Sahyadri also remain prominent addresses on Mumbai’s political map, though the importance of Matoshree has of late overshadowed the other two.
Political activity at Varsha, a sprawling bungalow in Mumbai’s Malabar Hill, dropped significantly after CM Uddhav Thackeray decided not to move to the official residence, and instead operate from Matoshree, holding important meetings at his residence and keeping an eye on the state through video conferencing, especially since the Covid-19 outbreak in Maharashtra.
However, a different bungalow has emerged as a political hotspot in the last few months — the erstwhile mayor’s bungalow on the seafront near the landmark Shivaji Park, now the site of the proposed Bal Thackeray memorial. Uddhav Thackeray has held meetings here with Sharad and Ajit Pawar, almost as if on neutral ground.
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